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This is the hardest part of the recipe, I promise

I made a Dutch Baby. Or maybe it’s not a Dutch baby; it’s just a big apple pancake. I’m not entirely clear on the difference, but boy was it delicious. Really, so darned good. And pretty, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to take my word on that. I always saw these going by to other tables on visits to the Original Pancake House, but I never had the patience to order one. They take extra time, and I wait for no pancake.

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Pre-deflation cake

Last weekend, we made our annual pilgrimage up to Oak Glen’s apple farms. Last year, the apple crop wasn’t strong enough to sustain their usual u-pick operations, so we were happy to see that this year there was a healthy crop of fruit-laden trees. Right now, they have Granny Smith, Red Rome, and Red Delicious ready for picking, but it changes as the season progresses. We picked a peck of all three (after surreptitiously taste- testing the Red Delicious to make sure they were as different from the supermarket examples of that variety as we hoped — they were, crunchy and sweet, with a little tartness). We used up all our cash paying for the apples we picked, and then it was downhill from there. My husband left his Visa at home, I couldn’t use mine because some fool in Florida made a counterfeit card to fund his $5/gallon gas habit, and the yummy barbecue place didn’t take AmEx. But at least we had apples. Lots and lots of apples.

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Fig upside-down cake

No spam was harmed in the taking of this picture.

We have this thing in our house. Whenever the kids are giving us a hard time about food — you know, won’t choose a snack, can’t decide what they want — we offer them figs. Figs figs figs. Sometimes we throw in some Spam. Figs and Spam Spam and figs. For some reason lost to time, they find the idea of figs hilarious and kind of disgusting. Figs figs figs. Read the rest of this entry »

The most beautiful green and yellow wax beans you've ever seen, admit it.

The most beautiful green and yellow wax beans you've ever seen, admit it.

I have become a total vegetable gardening dork. I’m obsessed. I order catalogs, I baby my plants every chance I get, I snarl at my children if they get too close. It’s sad. My husband actually said to me the other day that I’m not a dork until I start taking pictures.

See above.

Those are my first ever pole beans. They are, as is true of everything that you grow with your own hands and eat fresh off the vine, a revelation. Who knew green beans could be almost juicy? I’ve eaten some of them straight up, but I have enough now that I can play around with them and use them in recipes.

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When I was first learning to cook –really cook, not heat up Steakums like I did in college — Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything was my bible. It’s just a really good book for beginners. Bittman’s recipes aren’t fussy and his instructions always leave room for improvisation. These days I don’t have much time to try out new recipes, but there a couple of favorites from How to Cook …. that I still turn to regularly. One of my favorites, especially when I have leftover steak (yes, that happens even in our ridiculously carnivorous household) is the Beef Salad with Mint.

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chicken tortilla

Sometimes I buy those mutant rotisserie chickens at Costco and we end up only eating about half as actual roast chicken. Then we’re left with another half a chicken that nobody wants to eat and I am way too much my mother’s child to just ditch it, so I make one of two things with the meat I strip off the bone: enchiladas or chicken tortilla soup. You don’t need the enchiladas recipe, it’s the one from the bottle of Trader Joe’s enchilada sauce. But you do need the chicken tortilla recipe.

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French Art Deco Bar

French Art Deco Bar

One of my fellow dorks asked if I could do a post about stocking a bar. I’m no expert, but we’ve recently been actively re-stocking our bar after years of inactivity, so I do have something to say on the subject.

First let me tell you about my bar. I love my bar, truly I do. It was my first baby, before I had my two human babies. When we were first dating, my husband and I used to go to Miami Modernism and gape at all the gorgeous 20th century furnishings. During one of those visits, I spent inordinate amounts of time petting the Art Deco bars in one dealer’s booth. So sophisticated, so civilized, so EXPENSIVE! I had no money, so all I did was lust. A couple of years later, I saw an ad in our local weekly for an art deco sale on the beach. I dragged my husband down there immediately. I remember we were on our way out of town for a weekend of canoeing in the Everglades and it was totally out of our way.

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I should love mojitos. Rum, sugar, mint, what’s not to love? I grew up with lechon, platano maduro, y moros y cristianos (that’s roast pork, ripe plantains, and beans and rice for you gringos) in Miami, and when I got old enough, mojitos were added to the mix. But I’ve always thought the mojito could stand to be improved, so I’m really happy to have found the drink recipe that one-ups the mojito in just the way I like.

It’s called a bajito.

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Or maybe I should say real men drank daiquiris. Hemingway for one. And JFK. And Army and Navy officers visiting Cuba, who took the recipe back with them to Washington D.C. Legend has it that the daiquiri was the invention of one Jennings Cox, working in Cuba as a mining engineer for an American company, although the basic recipe is almost the same as that for grog, which British sailors imbibed going back to the 18th century.

Somewhere along the line, however, the daiquiri went from being the drink of choice for gin-less Americans in Cuba and elsewhere and became the frou-frou too-sweet frozen nightmare that it is today. Most places don’t even make fresh ones, they just pump it out of a machine, like so much alcoholic Cheez Whiz.

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Strawberry Sorbet

Late Spring in Southern California is not what you think it is. When I first moved here almost 5 years ago, I was taken completely by surprise when May rolled in and brought with it day after day of gray clouds. Where was that famous Southern California light? The May Gray turned into the June Gloom and still I felt like somebody had pulled a fast one on me and switched out the weather with Portland.

But even the gloomy marine layer can’t keep the bountiful soil of SoCal from bursting forth with enough fruits and vegetables to satisfy even the laziest locavore. Our year-round farmer’s markets always have something on offer, even in deepest winter, but it’s this time of year that things really start to rock and roll. And nothing is rocking right now more than the strawberries.

Not only are they at their biggest, juiciest, and most luscious right this minute, but they’re also at their cheapest. And who can resist buying more strawberries than you can possibly eat, when a whole flat costs barely more than then a Big Mac and fries? Not me. Having all those strawberries around opens up all sorts of possibilities (tarts! scones! strawberry margaritas!) but none is more simple or delicious than a simple strawberry sorbet

Fresh Strawberry Sorbet (courtesy Bon App├ętit)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

4 cups hulled fresh strawberries

3 -4 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat and cook until sugar melts and the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and chill for at least an hour.

Puree strawberries in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add lime juice and the chilled sugar syrup and blend until mixed.

Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. Spoon into an airtight container and freeze for at least 4 hours.

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